Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Peyton Buys into Erasing Blight; but This Time, It's the Longtime Beaches Eyesore Mayport Road

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Peyton Buys into Erasing Blight; but This Time, It's the Longtime Beaches Eyesore Mayport Road

Article excerpt

Byline: DREW DIXON

John Meserve has been the commanding officer of the former Mayport Naval Air Station, the chairman of the Mayport Waterfront Partnership and now he's entering his fifth term as mayor of Atlantic Beach. In all those posts, he realized the importance of revitalizing the crime- and blight-ridden Mayport Road.

But a recent personal experience, not his professional interests, convinced him to re-launch his mission of cleaning up the rough and busy road.

"I just feel bad when I go back there and I've been to some of the churches and attended some of the services and the people come up and say, 'You've got to do something for us,' " Meserve said Thursday.

The roadway from Atlantic Boulevard north to Mayport Naval Station is a busy commercial strip with auto body shops, fast-food restaurants, show bars, payday loan businesses as well as some rundown buildings and littered lots. It's also been the site of numerous arrests for prostitution, holdups and other crimes.

Meserve persuaded the rest of the Atlantic Beach City Commission to target Mayport Road for revitalization, and he's gained the attention of Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton, who agrees the corridor cannot be resurrected without help from Jacksonville.

The commission has tentatively agreed to hire a coordinator to handle Mayport Road projects for the next three to five years.

Groundbreaking is scheduled for Tuesday on a joint project in which Atlantic Beach, Jacksonville and state transportation officials will begin renovating the road's infrastructure, a project that has been postponed for years. Medians will be installed, the road will be resurfaced and landscaping will be added. The job, expected to cost about $5.5 million, could take a year.

Peyton said he's heard the call.

"I have to give a great deal of credit to Meserve for really having the vision for what Mayport Road can be," Peyton said this week. "I think we're going to have something to show for it because we're seeing investment in the medians. …

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